Occupy Berkeley holds ground despite police action

December 22, 2011 1:04:56 PM PST
After members of the Occupy Berkeley camp were served with a notice that police planned to evict people lodging at Civic Center Park after 10 p.m. Wednesday night, a group has remained in the area despite small bouts of police action this morning.

Occupy Berkeley is the last of the large scale Occupy encampments in the Bay Area and Berkeley city officials are confronting the same problems that shut down the camps in Oakland and San Francisco.

Berkeley police delivered their third warning, prompting some Occupy protesters to question whether they should stay or go.

Since Oct. 23, police say there have been 24 crimes at the camp, including three assaults with deadly weapons and an attempted rape Tuesday night.

"I was threatened and I'm very uncomfortable being in the camp," protester Elizabeth Gill said.

"When Oakland closed, when San Francisco closed, they've come here," Mayor Tom Bates said. "So we've had a different kind of person than in the past."

Bates says the strategy has been to thin out the crowd by checking warrants and issuing citations for smoking, drinking or having dogs off leashes. Wednesday night, police hauled off one tent that wasn't being attended.

"We hope we can have an attrition over time and it won't be necessary to have a confrontation, but I think this evening, we've seen all we're going to see tonight," Bates said.

The mayor says the camp started with six tents, then blossomed to 107, and is now down to about 50.

Wednesday, several protesters decided to pack up and leave, with some relocating to the Bank of America two blocks away. Meanwhile, others are preparing for a confrontation.

"It's not really bad getting arrested in California, it's more like an initiation, welcome to the system," protester Prescott Scardino said.

The deadline to leave was at 10 p.m., but so far the police have not come by. Those who are choosing to stay say more Occupiers are coming to take the place of those who left.